Leadership by every N.B.A. The team – in some form – have been charged with the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Any team except the Knicks.
And the franchise owner, James L. Dolan, made it clear on Monday that no such statement would come.
“At Madison Square Garden, we stand by our values of a respectful and peaceful workplace. We always will, ”Dolan wrote in one Email to employees received from ESPN. “As a sports and entertainment company, we are no more qualified than anyone else to express our opinion on social issues.”
Dolan’s reaction was in stark contrast to that of other teams in the league and of multiple players who joined the protests that haunt the nation every night. The N.B.A. is the rare sports league that has for years encouraged players to be socially aware of certain issues: police brutality is one of them. One of Knicks’ own players, Point Guard Dennis Smith Jr., took part in protests in Fayetteville, NC. over the weekend.
Dolan’s email came a day after Commissioner Adam Silver wrote a letter to the league staff on the subject. “I am encouraged,” he wrote, “of the many members of the N.B.A. and W.N.B.A.family – players, coaches, legends, team owners, and leaders at all levels – for justice, for peaceful protest, and for significant change.”
To this end, several of the team’s social media accounts were full of messages from players related to Floyd or otherwise related to the protests. Some teams in the N.B.A. were direct. The Washington Wizards made a statement From his players on Sunday, who said in capital letters: “We will no longer tolerate the murder of people with color in this country” and added: “We will no longer accept the abuse of power by law enforcement” and “We “DO NOT CLOSE AND DRIBLE ANY MORE. “A franchise, the Minnesota Timberwolves, shared a video shows several players going to demonstrations. Knicks representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
The Knicks rival, the Nets, released a statement on the same day saying, “We mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others who have lost their lives due to racial prejudice.” Taylor, an emergency technician who was black, was shot dead in her own home by the Louisville, Kentucky police after an arrest warrant was executed in March. Arbery was a 25-year-old black man who was followed by armed white residents while jogging and killed in February.
Some teams spoke through some of their most visible characters or the owners themselves. The Toronto Raptors shared a social media comment that Team President Masai Ujiri had written for The Globe and Mail.
“A death like this happens,” Ujiri wrote, “and we rage about it and the headlines go back and the world keeps moving and then a few weeks later something else happens and we are outraged again and then we go continue.” again. We have to stop this cycle. “Ujiri had his own argument with a policeman last year after the Raptors won the championship at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
Michael Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, said in a statement “I stand by those who proclaim deep-rooted racism and violence against colored people in our country. We have enough. “
The response to Floyd’s death was not limited to team statements. Multiple N.B.A. Coaches formed a committee to combat racism, and all league coaches entered Statement on Monday condemning Floyd’s death, saying, “The reality is that African Americans are targeted and victims every day.” One of these coaches, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, called a reporter for The Nation to criticize President Trump on Sunday. The Spurs haven’t released an official statement and haven’t addressed Floyd’s death on their social media platforms, but Popovich is also the team’s president.
“If Trump had a brain, even if it was 99 percent cynical, he would come out and say something to unite people,” Popovich told The Nation. “But he doesn’t care about bringing people together. Even now. He’s so disturbed. It’s just about him. It’s about what benefits him personally. It’s never about the common good. And that’s all he ever was . “
Dolan’s ten-year tenure as the owner of the Knicks was turbulent and largely loss-making. He has often argued with fans under whom he is insulted. And his statement is also contrary to his own willingness to be publicly political. Dolan spent during the 2016 presidential election cycle Hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect Trump as president. He also weighed before a black man was shot. He once sang a song about Trayvon Martin with his band JD & the Straight Shot. Some of the lyrics: “Who’s going? / A shadow on the street / Looks like anger from a judge’s chair / There’s nothing good under this hood.”
The Knicks were well on their way to missing the playoffs for the seventh season in a row – until the campaign was postponed due to the corona virus in March. Shortly after the suspension, Dolan announced that it had tested positive for the virus. He has recovered since then.
In February, fans in Madison Square Garden sang “Sell the team!” at Dolan’s. After a conflict, Dolan even got into an argument with the most famous and dedicated fan of the Knicks, the film director Spike Lee, whom Lee was supposed to use in the arena. Lee vowed not to attend another Knicks game this season.
In response to Dolan’s email, Lee said in a text message, “Not surprised.”